The Bureau of Customs (BOC) has been asked by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd to keep a closer eye on inbound rice shipments in order to ensure effective tax collection.
The Department of Finance said in a statement on Monday that this came after an executive order (EO) was issued unifying tariff rates on cereal imports to a standard 35 percent for a year, whether they came from inside or outside the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) area.
“Dominguez issued this directive after President (Rodrigo) Duterte issued EO 135 last May 15 to temporarily modify tariff rates on rice imports to offset the effect on consumers of the continuous increase in the price of rice from other countries, particularly those coming from ASEAN countries, and thereby reduce inflationary pressures,” the agency said.
EO 135 would allow the Philippines to diversify its rice market sources while, maintaining a consistent supply and an affordable price for Filipinos, it added.
Given the rise in ASEAN rice prices, “I think there will be a shift in the imports of Thai and Vietnamese rice, and Burmese (Myanmar) rice, to rice from other countries where the value is much lower. Just keep an eye on that,” Dominguez told Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero during a recent meeting.
Dominguez, a former agriculture secretary, suggested India as a potential source of low-cost rice imports.
For his part, Guerrero said the BOC is now investigating the valuation of rice shipments from Vietnam after discovering that the majority of the imports were declared with values lower than the documented prevailing rates for similar exports from that country.
“We discovered that many of these importations are under a tentative assessment so we are reviewing the payments.”
According to Guerrero, the average value of rice imports, largely from Vietnam, fell 12.7 percent to P19,312 per metric ton (MT) last May, down from P22,119 per MT the previous month.
The average price of rice in May was also lower than April’s P21,066 per MT and March’s P22,119 per MT.